Pembroke Friends Meetinghouse
I love Pembroke’s story. The Meetinghouse was built in 1706 and is currently in the Massachusetts Register of Historic Places and also in the National Register of Historic Landmarks. According to historian Libby Bates, it is the oldest Quaker Meetinghouse in Massachusetts, and the third oldest in the United States. Today, the South Shore Preparative Meeting holds worship in this beautiful Meetinghouse in July and August.
Pembroke’s story begins when the Quakers were being persecuted in the Boston area. In 1659, three Quakers were condemned to death. Two of the three were hung and the third, a woman named Mary Dyer, was given a reprieve from death if she agreed to leave the Boston area. She left, but she felt her work in Boston was unfinished, so she returned to Boston in 1660. On this visit, her third, she was condemned to death again. Though she was given an option for a reprieve from death she said, “Nay, I cannot, for in obedience to the will of the Lord, I came, and in his will I abide faithful to the death”.
One of the sheriffs who guarded the prisoners and attended to them at their deaths was Edward Wanton. According to history, he recognized the cruelty and injustice of the measures against the Quakers, and he was moved by their submission to death and was moved by what they said just before execution. After Mary Dyer’s execution he went home and told his mother, “Alas, Mother! We have been murdering the Lord’s people.” He took off his sword and vowed to never wear it again. Soon, he became a convinced Quaker (when one becomes a Quaker in adulthood, that person is called convinced). Edward Wanton moved to the Scituate area and began to practice Quakerism. Pembroke Friends Meetinghouse was built in 1706 under Edward Wanton’s guidance.
I love the story of Edward Wanton’s convincement. It seems that it was the words and the behavior of the condemned Quakers as they responded to adversity that convinced him. As George Fox said, “….be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.” Today’s Quakers simply say “Let your life speak.” The quiet resolve, the quiet behavior and the simple, direct language that stems from a certitude found from listening to the Inner Light is often compelling to others. The behavior of three Quakers in 1659-1660, as they followed their Inner Light, influenced Edward Wanton and it is still making me pause for thought in 2014. That is compelling behavior.
I also love the story of the building itself, and the dedication of non-Quaker townspeople who are preserving the building.
The original 1706 Meetinghouse was remodeled around 1838. When the Meeting was dissolved in 1874, the building fell into disrepair. In the 1920s “Friends of the Meetinghouse” caretakers took it over and in 1972 it was deeded to the Pembroke Historical Society. The Historical Society researched the building’s history and restored the building with grant funds. Today, the grounds and the building are in beautiful condition, maintained carefully and thoughtfully by the Town of Pembroke under the guidance of the Historical Society. (If you are interested and can spare forty minutes, there is an excellent tour and history of the Meetinghouse on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKcxpSzt3hk). There have been pressures to move the Meetinghouse to a new locale because the very desirable property it is on could be developed in a more lucrative fashion. Because of the cemetery on the grounds, the decision has been made to leave the cemetery and the building on its original site, in its original condition. Thank you, Town of Pembroke.
The picture below shows the location of the Meetinghouse on a very commercial, busy street. This picture is of the cemetery and the back of the Meetinghouse. The small building to the left is the original outhouse, a four-hole affair (with no privacy amongst the holes!!!). I tried to make the picture look like an old-time picture, so I have added a border and have made it black and white.
Beautiful photo. Regarding the backstory about Mary Dyer, she received a gallows reprieve because Massachusetts did not want to hang a high-status woman for civil disobedience and wished to appear compassionate. She, however, refused the reprieve on the grounds that Massachusetts had shown no willingness to revoke their anti-Quaker laws and she was forcibly removed from the gallows and Massachusetts. Seven months later she returned to Massachusetts to challenge the anti-Quaker laws, was arrested, offered still another reprieve, refused unless the laws were changed, and was hanged. In 1661 King Charles II had had enough from his maverick colony and ordered that Massachusetts send Quakers charged with capital crimes to England to be tried under English law. That put an end to the executions (there was one further after Dyer), but not yet Quaker persecution.
This Pembroke story with image is a wow! I think my favorite of series so far. The stark photograph is powerful, speaking to both yesterday and today and your writing is moving, to say the least.
W Thomas Manders(non-registered)
This is a nice story which helps those of us who are not quakers understand a little more of their history and thoughts. " Let your life speak" is a wonderful statement and an even better process to accomplish if possible. Thanks for the information provided and the nice photo of the grounds and cemetery.
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